Rabbi Greisman's Blog


If you walked by the book aisle at your favorite store and chanced upon a book titled ‘after’ – what would your first reaction be? Would you try to guess ‘after what’ the author is talking about? Would you think it’s an odd title for a book? Would you just shrug your shoulders?

Well, this week’s Torah portion, the sixth in the books of Leviticus, is exactly that: Its title is ‘Acharei’ – after.

The opening verse in its entirety reads “And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they drew near before the Lord, and they died.” While a Torah portion’s title is typically drawn from the opening verse, the choice of using just the word ‘after’ is interesting. If every word in the Torah is precise, certainly the title of a Torah portion isn’t picked at random, just grabbing a word from the opening verse; it is carefully chosen and therefore must contain a message and a lesson.

Superficially, when reading Lev. 10:1, one draws the conclusion that the sons of Aaron died due to their sin of bringing a foreign fire in front of G-d, one which He didn’t command them. However, the holy Or Hachaim sheds a much deeper light on the events that occurred that day and explains that the sons of Aaron were very holy individuals, ones that were even greater than Moshe and Aaron. Upon witnessing the G-dly flame and the Divine revelation on that first day of service in the Tabernacle, their soul was stirred with an affectionate and passionate desire to attach themselves to G-d. They had such a deep yearning to connect with G-d, that their soul literally departed their bodies and rose to heaven, merging with the Divine essence. They have reached the pinnacle of holiness a human being can achieve.

Their ‘sin’ was that they didn’t keep the ‘after’ in mind; they allowed the holiness of the moment and the G-dly revelation of that day to consume them and they became oblivious to the inevitable result. We are commanded that as long as there’s a breath of life in his or hers nostrils, A Jew must serve G-d in this world, keep their health and life and perform Mitzvot regularly. Allowing oneself to be consumed with the moment, as spiritual and holy as it may be, and ignore the ‘after’ is what they did wrong and this is precisely what the Torah is teaching us to never do.

This is why the portion is titled ‘after’, instructing the Jew to always, always, keep the ‘after’ in mind.

On Yom Kippur in the afternoon, after fasting and immersing ourselves in holiness almost an entire day, we read the portion of the Torah warning us not to imitate the behavior of the Egyptians and Canaanites, a lifestyle that the Torah describes as ‘the most corrupt of all’. The fact that we are warned about such basic ideas at a moment so holy teaches us that, even in a state of extreme holiness we must remember the consequences of our actions, and if we ignore the ‘after’ at that moment, we may plummet to the nadir of humanity, to the most undesirable human behaviors.

If when in a state of holiness one must keep the ‘after’ in mind, how much more so must we weigh the results of our actions in our day to day lives. We are so consumed with the ‘here and now’ that we all too often forget, or ignore, the ‘aftereffects’ of our actions.

I recall a conversation I had many years ago, urging a family to come to Shul regularly on Shabbat morning and bring their children with. They argued that their children play sports every Saturday morning and therefore the family cannot attend Shul. I countered by saying: When they will be adults, I guarantee you that they will not be involved in sports or make their living from it, but they will be Jewish. Their sportsmanship will have very little influence on their life and that of their offspring, yet the level of their Judaism will have a huge impact on the future of Judaism in their families. If we want them to be in Shul regularly as adults and if we wish that Judaism to be part of their lives, then the surest way to do so is to get them to be active Jews as children. Is it fair to sacrifice a lifelong (and eternal) value for the sake of a temporary childhood extra-curricular activity?

Sadly, all too often we think of ‘right now’ and what looks good ‘this moment’, ignoring entirely the consequences on the ‘after’. Aron’s sons forgot about the ‘after’ from a place of great holiness, we must not forget about the ‘after’ from the place we’re in right now.

What we invest in now, what we spend time on now, what we value NOW, will remain with us, with our children and with our grandchildren forever.

Choose your ‘after’ wisely; choose your ‘after’ Jewishly.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mendel Greisman


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